Monday, February 01, 2016

Cruising the Web

Now that much vaunted Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll is out showing Trump has a nice lead in Iowa and Clinton narrowly leads Sanders, Politico points out some problems with the Iowa polls. One problem is that the caucuses are open with people standing up and giving small speeches to persuade their fellow Iowans to vote for their favored candidate. So voters may well change their votes from how they thought they were going to vote a day or two ago.
Most states don’t allow “electioneering” within polling places, but the caucuses encourage it. Supporters give speeches, making the case for their candidates. In the Democratic caucuses, voters backing candidates who fail to meet a viability threshold in an initial vote – usually 15 percent – are lobbied to pick another candidate in the second round of voting.

Pollsters measure the intentions of voters in the days leading up to the caucuses. Even the entrance polls, which will be cited on all the cable-news networks Monday night, ask caucus-goers their vote preferences when they arrive. But none of that accounts for people who switch to another candidate during the caucus.
One interesting tidbit from the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll is that Iowans are not all that interested in Mayor Bloomberg with only 17% of Democrats and 9% of Republicans having a favorable view of Michael Bloomberg.

For all the celebration of Ann Selzer and the Des Moines Register poll's vaunted accuracy, she has been wrong before.
You wouldn’t know it from some of the coverage, but Ms. Selzer has missed before. Her final Iowa poll in 2004 showed John Kerry defeating George W. Bush by three points — Mr. Bush won by 1. The final poll in the 2012 Republican Iowa caucus gave Mitt Romney a nine-point lead over Rick Santorum — Mr. Santorum ultimately won. There was even a poll in June 2012 showing Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney by an implausible 13 points nationwide.

There has been all this talk about #Marcomentum with Rubio coming on. But the polls don't really show that growth in his numbers. It's similar to all the talk we've heard for months now about support for Rubio as the lead among the so-called establishment candidates, but that support just doesn't show up in the polls where Rubio hasn't grown. The DMR poll actually found that his support declined during the four days of polling.

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Philip KLein highlights
one response in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg polls that aroused the most concern among Republican voters.
By far, the most bothersome bit of information tested about either candidate: "Donald Trump supports the use of eminent domain to take private property for public or private projects, with compensation to the landowners." Presented with this information, 60 percent of Republican voters said it bothered them, compared with 35 percent who said it did not.

Eminent domain is a big issue in Iowa, where projects involving the government seizure of private property have drawn the ire of farmers. As my collegue Al Weaver reported last week, Trump touted the use of eminent domain in an area where farmers have been protesting a proposed regional airport that would involve land seizures. Driving around Iowa over the past few days, I've noticed a number of signs on farms on the side of the road reading, "Stop Eminent Domain Abuse."

But Trump's defense of eminent domain goes beyond even situations in which it's being used for public use. As a casino owner, he tried to use government power to take away the home of a wealthy widow for a fraction of what she had been offered for the property in order to build a limo parking lot for one of his Atlantic City properties.
I find that surprising. I would not have thought that that many voters cared about this issue. But Klein argues that this could be an opening for those Super PACs devoted to defeating Trump.
It also raises an opening for a Trump rival to pick up the line of attack in the closing days of Iowa and as the race moves into New Hampshire and beyond. The reason it could be potent is that Trump has remade his image in the campaign as a populist who will look out for the little guy and fight special interests. But his actual record in business cuts against this, given that he would use government to expand his empire.
Trump's advocacy for using eminent domain for the benefit of private companies could help paint a picture of Trump as a rich guy who doesn't mind using the power of the government to mow over the little guy.

Some interesting tidbits from the DMR poll is that Cruz wasn't hurt by Governor Branstad's criticism of his position on ethanol. Cruz and Rubio might benefit most if people change their vote on caucus night, but Cruz was really hurt by the attacks on him since early January. Trump is the second choice of just about no one. Rubio and Carson have the highest favorable/unfavorable ratings and are also the candidate that people are most enthusiastic about.

Gallup recently released their computations of the unfavorable impressions that voters have of the candidates. And Trump has astronomical unfavorable ratings.
Trump is the most unpopular candidate of either party when the entire U.S. population is taken into account -- and that he has a higher unfavorable rating than any nominated candidate from either of the two major parties going back to the 1992 election when we began to track favorability using the current format.

At this point (two-week average through Jan. 27), 33% of Americans view Trump favorably and 60% unfavorably. It's that 60% unfavorable figure that I can focus on here.

Hillary Clinton currently has a 52% unfavorable rating among all Americans, while Jeb Bush is at 45%, Chris Christie 38%, Ted Cruz 37%, Marco Rubio 33%, Bernie Sanders 31% and Ben Carson 30%. Trump's 60% is clearly well above all of these. Putting his favorable and unfavorable ratings together yields a net favorable of -27 for Trump, far above the -10 for Clinton and for Bush, the next lowest among the major candidates.
So as voters turn to the voting booths now, they should consider how such high unfavorability ratings would impact his electability.

Apparently, at least one journalist thinks that her fellow journalists are intimidated by Donald Trump.
This morning on CNN, Alisyn Camerota said that journalists are scared to criticize Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump continues to call Megyn Kelly names, he continues to tweet out, this is what he does, to journalists he isn't happy with," said Camerota.

"It is troubling, and of course, we've talked about this. It does have a chilling effect, 'cause you do watch your words more. You don't want all of his Twitter followers to come at you with that Twitter hate."
Really? Twitter hat is enough to affect what you would say about a political candidate? That's a real profile in courage.

Well, I guess it takes one to know one.
Ted Cruz is a "RINO," according to former Republican senator and presidential nominee Bob Dole.

"He's a RINO — he's a Republican in name only," Dole said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, just one day before the Iowa caucuses that Dole won twice.

Cruz's "far, far right" brand of conservatism, Dole said, is out of step with Republicans, and with GOP voters in Iowa in particular.
How many people were waiting around wondering where Bob Dole stands for the GOP nomination?

Stuart Rothenberg thinks
it was the kiss of death for John Kasich to be endorsed by the Boston Globe, Concord Monitor, and, we can add in, the New York Times.
try also to understand that Kasich’s campaign is done. You can stick a fork in it. He will not be the GOP nominee for president in 2016. Recent endorsements from two New England newspapers prove that.

Kasich continues to plug away in New Hampshire, hoping that lightning will strike and he surprises onlookers by finishing ahead of the other pragmatic candidates in the GOP primary.

I suppose his standing in the January 17-23 New Hampshire NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Republican primary poll, which found him bunched with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and fighting for second place, could give his supporters a false sense of optimism.

But with Rubio pulling away from the pack in Iowa to establish himself as an alternative to Donald Trump and Cruz, Kasich has a ridiculously uphill struggle. Even if Kasich surprises in the Granite State and finishes ahead of Rubio there, the Ohio governor simply has not shown the appeal – or put together the campaign elsewhere – that he would need to become a true contender in the Republican race.

Kasich may be correct that name recognition remains a big problem, but his bigger problem is that he continues to be the favorite Republican candidate of Democrats, liberals and members of the media.
Yup. The only people I hear praising Kasich are Democrats or liberals. Republicans can't stand him. He just rubs them the wrong way with his sanctimonious espousal of liberal pieties.

George Packer summarizes why it is so ridiculous that Iowa has this prominent place in our nation's politics.
bout one half of one per cent of all registered voters in the United States—ninety-six per cent of them likely to be white, a hundred per cent certain to live in Iowa or New Hampshire—will now exercise their inalienable, God-given, legally mandated right to choose the Presidential nominees of the two parties. Since the advent of the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus as we know them, in the nineteen-fifties and seventies, respectively, no one has been elected President without winning one or the other—except Bill Clinton, whose second-place finish in New Hampshire, in 1992, amid various scandals, was a victory over expectations, and proved that he was indefatigable. So is the political hegemony of these two smallish, non-representative states. If the Presidential-nominating process were an international sports competition, one would assume that top officials of both parties were taking envelopes of cash from town chairs in Durham and precinct captains in Waterloo. But, amazingly, all this outsized clout comes free.

Hillary calls on the State Department to publish her emails even though they've been classified as top secret. Now there's the lack of respect for keeping the nation's secrets that we've come to expect from her.

And then there is this about the current Secretary of State.
Emails released by the State Department on Friday show that in 2011, then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry sent then-Sec. of State Hillary Clinton an email from his iPad that has been deemed to contain information classified as “Secret.”

While previous releases of Clinton’s emails have shown that she and her staff communicated directly with Kerry when he was a senator, the new email is the first from Kerry that the State Department has determined contains sensitive information.

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While Bernie Sanders inveighs against special interests, there is one special interest that still has a stranglehold on the Democratic Party.
Yet, one of the most powerful special interest groups in America is consistently left out of the conversation—teachers’ unions. As we mark School Choice Week 2016, we ought to understand how consistently teachers’ unions and opponents of educational choice opt to protect their own entrenched interests at the expense of students.
Since 1990, the two largest teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have spent a combined $114 million on campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Teachers’ unions spent over $30 million in contributions in the 2014 election cycle alone, and Sanders has received the second highest total of any federal political from teachers’ unions in the 2016 election cycle....

AFT and NEA also spent over $60 million on lobbying from 1998 to 2015. The NEA is the fourth-largest single donor in American politics since 1989. Many of these funds go towards securing favorable collectively-bargained agreements.

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While Ted Cruz has been conducting one of the most overtly religious campaigns that we've ever seen for a leading candidate, that hasn't always been true. One criticism that he's faced recently is that he hasn't donated much to charity as evidenced by his tax returns.
Being a past charitable cheapskate provides a glimpse of who Cruz was before running for president, when he was known more as a fierce fiscal conservative than a devout Southern Baptist. Cruz's religious side similarly didn't dominate his 2012 run for Senate in Texas. Cruz suggested shortly after taking office that politicians should "avoid ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith" — advice he has ignored amid his rise in national polls.

"It's not like this is a new issue, it just wasn't front and center," James Bernsen, the spokesman for Cruz's Senate campaign, said of religion. "Ted's main focus was on Obamacare, taxing and spending, the national debt."

On the night he won the 2012 Texas primary, Cruz reminded a packed Houston hotel ballroom that victory came on what would have been the 100th birthday of free-market champion Milton Friedman. Only after that did he praise God.

The following year, Cruz told the Christian Broadcasting Network: "I think anyone in politics, you've got a special obligation to avoid being a Pharisee, to avoid ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith."
Times have really changed now that he wants to appeal to evangelical voterss in Iowa.

We'll have to see whether the voters of Iowa, whom we're constantly being told are so nice and so invested in making well-thought out decisions in their caucuses that they richly deserve their first in the nation status, will care about Trump skipping the debate in Iowa. And will they care about the Cruz campaign sending out mailers grading voters on their turnout at previous caucuses and giving them the grades of their neighbors. The Republican Secretary of State of Iowa issued an announcement condemning the mailers.
Iowa’s top elections official condemned Ted Cruz’s campaign on Saturday for sending mailers to Iowa voters designed to look like official documents that accuse them of a “VOTING VIOLATION” for failure to turn out in past elections.

Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement that Cruz’s mailers, which has the words “official public record” printed in red at the top, “misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law.”

“There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting,” said Paul, who was elected statewide as a Republican in 2014. “Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses.”

The controversial Cruz mailers show the name of the person receiving the mail at the top and then give them a grade on an A to F scale. Below, it shows their neighbors and their voting scores. It then urges them to caucus next week and warns, “A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.”

Political science studies have shown that such voter-shaming and peer-pressure techniques can be effective to motivate less likely voters. Past campaigns have sent such mail but they come at the risk of backlash from voters who feel their — and their neighbors’ privacy — has been compromised.
It's interesting that such tactics would work in today's society when shame seems to be such an old-fashioned emotion. The Washington Post summarizes the study which looked at the effect of political-shaming mailers.
A decade ago ago, a trio of political scientists asked voters a powerful question: Why weren't they voting as much as their neighbors? Alan Gerber, Donald Green, and Christopher Larimer -- two professors from Yale and one from the University of Northern Iowa -- wanted to find out whether peer pressure and social norms could drive up voter turnout, so they mailed more than 180,000 Michigan households a letter telling them that they were part of a study, in which other people would find out if they stayed away from the ballot box.

"We're sending this mailing to you and your neighbors to publicize who does and does not vote," read one mailing, accompanied by a chart that noted whether or not their neighbors had cast a ballot.

The letter worked. Political consultants, like Democrat Hal Malchow, found that similar letters in real elections could boost turnout by up to 2.5 percent.
Obama used this method in 2012. One of the authors of that study, Christopher Larimer, says that the Cruz mailing misapplied the results of his study.
"The Cruz mailing is more negative than anything we have done and has the potential to elicit a negative response or what psychologists call 'reactance' or 'boomerang effect,'" warned Larimer. "The mailing also states that a 'follow up notice' will be sent following the caucuses on Monday. This is not possible as caucus turnout is private and maintained by the parties."
Meanwhile, Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker, looked into the information in the Cruz mailers giving the scores for the recipient and neighbors based on their participation in past caucuses.
In Iowa, although voter-registration information is free and available to the public, voter history is not. That information is maintained by the secretary of state, who licenses it to campaigns, super PACs, polling firms, and any other entity that might want it. So was the Cruz campaign accurately portraying the voter histories of Iowans? Or did it simply make up the numbers?

It seems to have made them up. Dave Peterson, a political scientist at Iowa State University who is well-acquainted with the research on “social pressure” turnout techniques, received a mailer last week. The Cruz campaign pegged his voting percentage at fifty-five per cent, which seems to be the most common score that the campaign gives out. (All of the neighbors listed on Peterson’s mailer also received a score of fifty-five per cent.)

Peterson, who is actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, moved to Iowa in 2009. He told me that he has voted in three out of the last three general elections and in two out of the last three primaries.

“There are other people listed on my mailer who live in my neighborhood that are all different ages, but everyone on this sheet has the same score of fifty-five per cent,” he said. “Some are significantly younger and would have not been eligible to vote in these elections, and others are older and have voted consistently, going back years. There is no way to get to us all having the same score.” (Peterson also spoke with Mother Jones.)

If the Cruz campaign based its score on local elections, Peterson said, the number also wouldn’t make sense, based on his participation in those elections as well. A source with access to the Iowa voter file told me that he checked several other names on Cruz mailers and that the voting histories of those individuals did not match the scores that the Cruz campaign assigned them in the mailer.
The Rubio campaign sent out mailers also based on the political science study, but theirs was different.
Rubio’s campaign also sent out a mailer that employs social pressure to induce participation in the caucuses, but, notably, the Rubio campaign did not mention the names of the target voter’s neighbors.
Whether this story about the mailers has any impact or not is hard to say, but it can't be good for the main story about the Cruz campaign in the final weekend to be that he's behind in the polls to Trump and that his campaign sent out a mailer being condemned by the Iowa secretary of state.

The Rubio campaign held a televised town hall on Saturday that they bought time to be aired on local Iowa TV. Notice that their campaign has to pay for such exposure while Trump routinely gets his events televised for free as he did in his supposed counter-programming to the GOP debate on Thursday.

The Washington Examiner explores
the tenuous understanding that Donald Trump has of our nation's Constitution.
In just seven months since he entered the presidential race, Trump has proposed policies that are clearly unconstitutional and others that are dubiously so. He has vowed to end birthright citizenship, unilaterally deport millions of illegal immigrants and close down parts of the Internet. He has proposed creating a registry of Muslims living in the U.S. and temporarily barring Muslims entry into the country. Trump has also promised to issue an executive order that would mandate the death penalty for anyone who murders a police officer "as one of the first things I'd do in terms of executive order."

Trump justifies most of these in the name of security. "We're going to have to do things that we never did before," Trump said during a November interview in which he floated the idea of requiring Muslims to obtain national ID cards or be registered in a database. "And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule. And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we're going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago."

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Kimberley Strassel explains why we should worry about Donald Trump's temptation to use the power of the presidency to punish his political enemies just as Republicans think that the Obama administration has. Trump has already demonstrated his willingness to threaten those who criticize him.
Mr. Trump’s broadsides are no doubt part of his allure. But how would he conduct himself in a post-Obama White House? Mr. Trump, after all, doesn’t merely call out opponents; in this campaign he has threatened individuals and organizations for daring to criticize him. In September he sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Club for Growth, promising a “multi-million-dollar” lawsuit if the group didn’t stop running ads in Iowa highlighting his tax ideas.

In December Mr. Trump’s representatives sent a letter threatening litigation to a wealthy Florida businessman, Mike Fernandez, who ran an ad against the candidate in a local newspaper. Another Trump letter threatened to sue a political-action committee backing presidential rival John Kasich. The company, which was selling anti-Trump merchandise, was another object of Mr. Trump’s litigious saber-rattling. He has also threatened lawsuits against newspapers, including this one. Mr. Trump in November threatened to sue The Wall Street Journal if it didn’t retract and apologize for an editorial that criticized him for not understanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. The Journal refused, and his lawyer withdrew the threat.

This follows a lifetime of Mr. Trump’s using the judicial branch, or simply the threat of legal action, to try to silence his critics. He (unsuccessfully) sued the author of a book that claimed he wasn’t really a billionaire. He (successfully) sued a Miss USA contestant for claiming the pageant process was “rigged.” He threatened legal action against an activist who had ginned up a campaign to get Macy’s to stop selling Trump-branded products (he didn’t sue in the end).

Sometimes Mr. Trump’s legal actions are less about hushing critics than blocking business competition. He sued New York state for letting bars offer a lottery game that might have cut into his casino revenue. He sued New Jersey for funding a tunnel project that would have funneled more people to a rival casino owner’s resort.

More worrisome is Mr. Trump’s willingness to use government to punish a critic. In September on Fox News, National Review’s Rich Lowry praised GOP candidate Carly Fiorina by saying that in a debate exchange with Mr. Trump, she had “cut his balls off with the precision of a surgeon.” Mr. Trump—who often derides political correctness—called on the Federal Communications Commission to fine Mr. Lowry.

Mr. Trump is a fan of government power generally, as alarmed constitutional conservatives will tell anyone willing to listen. He has never offered deeply considered views about the office of the presidency—on its obligations, the limits of its power, the need to exercise restraint.

“The current administration has resurrected Nixon’s weaponization of the bureaucracies against its opponents,” says Mr. Sasse. “And I don’t have great hope that a guy who brags, ‘If someone screws you, screw them back,’ is going to return to the rule of law.”

Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies explains how the real numbers of undocumented immigrants that we're facing in the United States are not those who came across the border, but those who have overstayed viss.
While the number of border agents and the miles and type of fencing are all still inadequate, not all the money we’ve spent there over the past two decades has been wasted. Border crossings really are way down. We’re much more able than we were before to patrol the border effectively, though we have an administration in Washington that often chooses not to do so, as we’ve seen with the ongoing surge of Central American teenagers and families into South Texas.

But even if we were to build a wall, and elect a president interested in using it to protect America’s sovereignty, we’d be missing most of the problem — because the majority of new illegal aliens are actually visa overstayers.

This is the most important — albeit buried — finding in a paper published this year by the Center for Migration Studies, an expansionist outfit run by the Scalabrinian Catholic order that nonetheless does serious work. Co-authored by Robert Warren, head of statistics for the old INS, the paper finds that the share of overstays among new illegal aliens has been rising pretty steadily since the 1980s and surpassed border infiltrators in 2008. The paper’s most recent estimate is for 2012, when nearly 60 percent of new illegal immigrants are believed to have entered legally on some sort of visa (or visa-waiver status, if they’re from a developed country) and then just stayed on after their time expired.
One reason for this is that the Obama administration has both vastly increased the number of temporary visas issued by the State Department while downplaying the deportations of those who overstay their visas. I would certainly like to hear the candidates asked about what their approach would be to visa overstays.

College Insurrections find that the University of Kentucky will give students college credit in “Taco Literacy: Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the US South.” The students will explore social issues through the prism of eating tacos. They will also write restaurant reviews. Sounds a lot of fun, but not what I would be paying for my own children to college to learn.

Imagine what goes through a government's mind when they make this sort of decision.
New York City’s city council is set to dilute a host of criminal laws including laws against public urination and excessive noise because council members believe too many members of minorities are getting arrested.

The New York Police Department already relaxed its enforcement of many quality-of-life laws after years of enforcing exactly such laws led to record lows of crime in the once-much-grittier city, reports The New York Times,

This relaxation strategy wasn’t enough for city lawmakers.

“We know that the system has been really rigged against communities of color in particular,” council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, told the Times. “So the question has always been, what can we do in this job to minimize unnecessary interaction with the criminal justice system, so that these young people can really fulfill their potential?”
What? Are minorities more likely to urinate in public than non-minorities? We're a long way from the broken-windows theory of criminal justice whereby the police work to stop such "quality of life" crimes in order to help establish a more orderly society.

And public urinals have been established in San Francisco.